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Scotland says 'no way' to controversial gas option

Company behind pioneering effort said it would diversify the energy mix and support the economy.

By Daniel J. Graeber

Gas derived from underground coal deposits will have no place in a greening Scottish economy, the country's minister for energy announced.

The Scottish government, which boasts one of the more robust low-carbon programs in the world, said it would not support efforts to exploit underground gasification efforts. A report from the University of Glasgow finds the coal gasification industry has a history of incidents related to pollution and is out of step with Scotland's efforts to lower its emissions without an offset like carbon capture and storage in place.

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"Having considered the report in detail, it is the Scottish government's view that UCG poses numerous and serious environmental risks and, on that basis, the Scottish government cannot support this technology," Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said in a statement. "Accordingly, UCG will have no place in Scotland's energy mix at this time."

Scotland placed a moratorium on the practice last October and the University of Glasgow report recommends the country work toward an outright ban. Cluff Natural Resources had planned to spend about $310 million to build the first offshore UCG plan, saying it could return billions of dollars to the Scottish economy.

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After the October moratorium, the company said UCG could diversify the regional energy mix and provide substantial stimulus to the regional economy. Andrew Nunn, the company's chief operating officer, told UPI the Scottish government was missing out.

"We have no doubt that UCG will be developed elsewhere in the world and the opportunity for Scotland to benefit from first mover advantage will have been lost," he said.

Scotland stressed UCG is not the same as hydraulic fracturing or other unconventional oil and gas technologies and the decision has no bearing on those practices. The author of the university report, Campbell Gemmell, said it's "extremely" unlikely the Scottish government would ever consider UCG.

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"I cannot predict what kind of clean energy technologies may be available in the decades to come, but what is certain is that this resource will still be there," Wheelhouse said. "Our energy strategy for Scotland will set out an energy mix for the future that does not include UCG."

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